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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Alvin Smalls, #253745 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Alvin Smalls, #253745

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Alvin Smalls, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since December 13, 1997. On January 11, 2000, Inmate Smalls was convicted of Out of Place and Use of Obscene, Vulgar or Profane Language or Gestures after an incident occurring on December 17, 1999. As a result of his convictions, Inmate Smalls received a reprimand. As a result of the reprimand, Inmate Smalls failed to earn twenty days of "good time" credit. Inmate Smalls filed a grievance with the Department on January 14, 2000, and received a final decision from the Department on April 6, 2000. On May 4, 2000, Inmate Smalls filed this appeal with the Division.

The Division's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). In Al- Shabazz, the Supreme Court created a new avenue by which inmates could seek review of final decisions of the Department of Corrections in "non-collateral" matters, i.e., matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence, by appealing those decisions to the Division and ultimately to the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. 338 S.C. at 373, 376, 527 S.E.2d at 752, 754. In its appellate capacity, the Division is primarily concerned with ensuring that the appellants receive all procedural process they are due. The Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of procedural due process applies only to the deprivation of a life, liberty, or property interest. Board of Regents of State College v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 2705 (1972). The statutory right to sentence-related credits is a protected liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974); Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 369-370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. An inmate facing the loss of sentence-related credits is entitled to minimal due process to ensure that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated. Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. at 370, 527 S.E.2d at 750. However, an inmate has no liberty interest in sentence-related credits that have not yet been earned. See Luken v. Scott, 71 F.3d 192 (5th Cir. 1995) (mere opportunity to earn good-time credits does not constitute a constitutionally cognizable liberty interest sufficient to trigger the protection of the Due Process Clause), citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S. Ct. 2293 (1995) (where state's action does not "inevitably affect the duration of [the inmate's] sentence," no constitutionally cognizable liberty interest exists).

A parole-eligible inmate in the custody of the Department who has not been subjected to punishment for misbehavior and has otherwise followed the rules of the Department "is entitled to a deduction from the term of his sentence...computed at the rate of twenty days for each month served." S.C. Code Ann. § 24-13-210(A) (Supp. 1995). Such an inmate is not entitled to any deduction for good behavior until he has completed that month's service. See id.; 1978 S.C. Op. Atty. Gen. 172 ("the effect of the language of the to require that the deductions be made for the time spent in actual incarceration with good behavior"). Therefore, an inmate who violates a Department rule will fail to earn twenty days' "good-time" credit for the month in which the rule violation occurred.

I find that Inmate Smalls has no liberty interest in "good time" credit he failed to earn as a result of his rule violation in December 1999. As such, Inmate Smalls is not entitled to an Al-Shabazz-type hearing, in which he is represented by counsel substitute, if necessary, and in which he has the opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses. Therefore, because Inmate Smalls was not entitled to any hearing regarding a Facility rules violation resulting in his inability to earn "good time" credit, the Major Disciplinary Hearing provided by the Department was more than sufficient. That the Department routinely affords inmates charged with Facility rules violations and other minor infractions some process does not indicate that any process is required, much less the process described in Al-Shabazz when a life, liberty, or property interest is at stake. Accordingly, the Department's final decision is affirmed.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Appellant's appeal is DENIED, and the Final Decision of the Department is hereby AFFIRMED.



Ralph King Anderson, III

Administrative Law Judge

May 23, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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